Do You have the Gift of Intercession? President Kieschnick, Ablaze and the Nation Need You, by Pr. Rossow

(Pastor Rossow blogs regularly on the site under the title Editor’s Blog and also writes an occasional post, such as this one,  archived on the Regular Columns page under the title “The LCMS in Her Own Words.”)

Here is a quote from today’s online issue of the LCMS Reporter:

Synod “intercessors” are being invited to gather in St. Louis Sept. 10-11 for “PRAY 2009,” an inaugural event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (St. Louis Airport) that two pastors initially planning it pray will spark a prayer movement for the church body.

Dr. Victor Belton of Decatur, Ga., and Rev. Cliff Bira of Flushing, Mich., began contacting Synod intercessors they know in late spring, inviting them “to come together for a time of prayer and intercession.    
Belton said that as far as he and Bira know, this is the first time that Synod intercessors have been invited to come together.

This story sounds more like something you would read in the Assemblies of God denomination newsletter and not in the LCMS.

Actually “synod’s intercessors” have been coming  together  in the divine service each week in everyone one of our parishes. The general prayer of the liturgy is one big, weekly  intercession. This is what disturbs us most about this story. The same thing  we said a few weeks ago in our critique of President’s Kieschnick’s district convention presentation applies here. He talks about being confessional and liturgical but then his actions are not consistent with that claim. Likewise, the synod likes to claim that it is liturgical but when push comes to shove, the language that we use betrays what is really going on. We have no problem with people getting together to pray for the synod but to speak as though this is something unique and not realizing that each confessional congregation intercedes in prayer every week is very annoying and belies an enthusiastic and non-liturgical approach to church.

There are other  disturbing things about the language of this story.  The charismatic feel of the language of this story  makes it  sound  like a story in a Pentecostal denomination. I grew up around charismatics and this language of “intercessors,” “the war between the church and the world,” and “a prayer movement” are all phrases and notions that I heard among them and that I do not hear in the Lutheran Confessions. Again, I want to emphasize that prayer is a powerful gift of God and it is good for Lutherans to get together to pray but  those of us who are aquainted with the heterodox world of “charismania”  know that there it is a strong pentecostal undercurrent in  the move toward contemporary worship and away from the historic liturgy in the synod and it is apperent in this Reporter story.

Amongst its other shortcomings the charismatic movement  is overly focussed on  the gifts of the spirit, identifying some Christians as having some gifts that others do not have (as is the case with the notion of “intercessor” in this  story). It also elevates the experience of the faith over the teaching of the faith as the organizers of this event are also doing as is evident by this quote:

We will not talk about prayer. There will be no presentations on prayer.   There will be no diagnosis of the types of prayer.   We are coming together to pray.”Belton and Bira define a Synod intercessor as “[anyone] who regularly intercedes for our nation, our church, church leaders, and the world.”

Why would we not want any teaching on prayer when we gather together for intercession? Why would we gather together for intercession and not preach or sing or confess the ecumenical creeds? I have an idea why, because many among us wish to replace our grandfather’s church which properly balances prayer, preaching and singing with a church that stresses emotion, a personal relationship with Jesus, and other pentecostal traits.

The words that we use are important. The LCMS in her own words is often troubling. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Do You have the Gift of Intercession? President Kieschnick, Ablaze and the Nation Need You, by Pr. Rossow — 30 Comments

  1. As a former charismatic Baptist I can attest to the similarities in language and style between this LC-MS event and numerous charismatic events I witnessed. Why do people need to travel to an event for intercessor prayer? 50$ registration fee for intercessory prayer?

    The similarities in language do not necessarily mean this is bad idea. The obvious answer to any criticism of this event is the question, “Are you against prayer?”

    I find it ironic that this event gets official LC-MS imprimatur but Higher Things gets ignored.

  2. “There are other disturbing things about the language of this story. The charismatic feel of the language of this story makes it sound like a story in a Pentecostal denomination.”

    Having had been a Pentecostal for many years I agree. We regularly talked about “intercessors” and “intercessory prayers”. We even liked to talk about some being “prayer warriors” who did “spiritual battle” with demons.

  3. I get the impression from announcements like this that they expect 90% of the synod to respond with a “Finally! Now we’re actually praying instead of just talking about it!” As though no one knows anything about being Lutheran.

    I could be living in a confessional bubble here, but don’t most LCMS Lutherans know enough about why they’re Lutheran not to be swayed by this? Shouldn’t these synod higher-ups realize that if people wanted to be Pentecostal, they could just go be Pentecostal?

    Just like with the National Youth Gatherings, they seem to try to diminish the very real things that happen in churches every Sunday in pursuit of “really feeling the spirit.” The average layperson must find that confusing.

  4. Front page of Quote- “Clearly, it is time for the church to pray! This is no time for the church to be silent, but rather the church must go full into the fray on her knees!”
    KYRIE ELEISON! Stop the insults against the Church which has been taking the time and has NEVER been silent. They would do well to review the Biblical doctrine of prayer. An exceptional, concise paper is written by Dr. Surburg, you can find at

  5. As someone who daily “… regularly intercedes for our nation, our church, church leaders, and the world.” I am offended that I have not been contacted by either of the event leaders to participate. But then, I pray with the Church using the prayers of the Divine Office from the Treasury of Daily Prayer. I guess that means I wouldn’t qualify. Oh well.

  6. Well, you have to have the “gift” of intercessory prayer. We’ve all read that stuff, like the gift of evangelist–when you share the good news, people come to faith–so you got the “gift.” So, here, when you pray, it seems you get results–so you got the gift.
    This sounds like an amalgam of RIM and C-G. Kind of “C-GRIM” if you get my drift. Right out of Pasadena and Toronto.

    Brothers and sisters, this is nothing but sad.

  7. Can a resolution be passed at the convention in ’10 to require each Reporter article to accept comments similar to what we see on the website of every newspaper (registration required)? This would give an interesting insight to the divisions within the synod.

  8. “this is the first time that Synod intercessors have been invited to come together”

    Have these two Pastors ever had the joy of the Divine Service. Each and every week, our congregation joins in the Prayer of the Church which includes intercessions for our Synod, District and churches, our President and Governor, our community locally, our State, Nation and all of creation.

    “Our sense of failure in prayers is worsened by much of the teaching on prayer in the Church.” (1)

    We have no need to travel to St. Louis to accomplish this amazing feat. This power is given to us by Christ to be used in his Church whenever we gather together. The artifical divorce of intercessory prayer from prayers of praise, thanksgiving and petitioning is a work of man, not of God.

    “The basic assumption of popular Christian literature and current Protestant teaching is that prayer is something that we do by ourselves.”(2)

    This Reporter article is very saddening in many ways, not the least of which is isolating the Prayer of the Church from the Divine Service. To know how to pray, we listen to Christ’s Word given to us in the liturgy; to know what to pray for, listen to Christ’s Word given for us in the liturgy. To know when to pray, follow Christ’s Word to the liturgy of the Divine Service and join Him, his Church on earth and the Communion of the Saints in prayer to the Father. At no time should we seperate prayer from God’s Word. Pastors – teach your members Luther’s “Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio.” This should be applied both to our corporate worship and our private devotions.

    “Wir sind Bettler. Hoc est verum!”(3) Always remember we come to God as beggars, asking for His mercy and aid, whether for ourselves or our neighbor. We should always guard against allowing our pride to rule our prayer – prayer is God’s work in and for us. We need to learn to listen to His Word alone.

    My advice; save the $67 hotel fees, travel expenses and more – give these monies to Concordia Seminary (or CTS, Ft. Wayne). Join with the whole Church each and every Lord’s Day, and with all the Saints in Heaven and pray at all times to our Father through His Son with the help of the Holy Spirit. Try it – Jesus said it works wonders and He knows more than us about truth.

    (1)Grace upon Grace; John W Kleinig – pg.152
    (2) ibid – pg. 161
    (3) ibid – pg. 29

  9. It also seems odd that this is all going to take place in a hotel meeting hall.

    The leaders of Higher Things do such a wonderful thing by only scheduling gatherings where they can have an altar, pulpit, etc. for worship and then limit the number of attendees to whatever they can fit into that particular sanctuary.


  10. I read this site regularly. Today I saw things posted that just make me incredibly angry. This is an attempt to make church things FUN. Prayer alone, meaning by yourself in the privacy of your own home, is so BORING. Prayer during a worship service – does not matter if it is CW or DS – is just not cutting it, we need to do more to really let God know we are serious. Besides, if they want all of the who pray for the church to be there they need to find room for several million people.

  11. I guess you’re always shocked to read something like this in an official LCMS publication. But should you be surprised? The end of Renewal in MO a few years back could mean that there just aren’t any serious charismatics in our church body — or it could mean that this organization’s mission is accomplished: the “renewal” either has taken place or is now driven by official channels. My guess? I’d go for the second option.

    At last month’s MNS Convention, one of the main presentations was by Rev. Chris Dodge of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington, MN. He spoke at length about the charismatic movement that began in 1901 and considered it — along with the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli political control in 1967 — as one of the signs that God is doing amazing things that indicate the closeness of the end of the age. No distinguishing of the spirits was offered in that presentation: that movement looks impressive; so many people have put the sticker: “Really from the real God” on it; therefore, it must be the real deal (granting some minor aberrations).

  12. Wow! I for one would love to see the bill for this marvelous intercessory prayer convention/conference/convocation, or whatever it is being called. Honestly, does this not show more of the same desperation that we have been seeing for some time? Have we forgotten that, sometimes, the Church must labor under the cross and that, in fact, the theology of the cross is the theology of the one, holy, apostolic, catholic church? If the Lord wants us to suffer lower numbers, etc. is it now our job to manipulate Him into doing things differently? In the parish that I serve, we have been praying for years now every single Sunday that the Lord would send people to us so that we may teach them and they may be faithful with us! This is always the church’s prayer! Shame on those who imply that we pray insufficiently or somehow inappropriately just b/c we do not share their phony baloney “prayer warrior” title. Shame, too, on pastors who give the impression that they are the only pray-ers in their congregation even as those who do not realize that they are called to serve Christ and his people by prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6). God forgive those who misteach the flock of God on the subject of prayer. May the Lord grant us leaders and teachers who quit deliberately (or not) misleading and confusing the flock of God. May the Lord, if it is His will, grant to the LCMS a time of growth in numbers; in the meantime, His will is that we have faith in Him, and live the life of daily repentance, prayer, and service to Him and our neighbor. I would be overjoyed to hear someone tell us that, though we do not know what the Lord’s intentions are for our future, that we may nevertheless rest in His promise: “Have no fear, little flock.” (Lk. 12:32)

  13. Someone asked: “Why do people need to travel to an event for intercessory prayer?”

    This is an important question because there is a charismatically systematic answer that goes far and shows much.

    That is, *some prayer is more powerful than others.*

    Particular to what makes prayer work and what does not are the questions of “who,” “when,” “where,” “how long” and “how hard”? It is not a matter of faith or “thy will be done,” but, as expressed excellently by a post in the comments, “*we* need to do *more* to really let God know we are serious.”

    I do not intend to “pick” or be mean spirited. The commenter is vigorous and passionate. However, the theology of glory which underlies such a charismatically influenced theology of prayer are a great burden to the conscience, and must be viewed as in danger of coming between us and the grace we know we have in Jesus. “We” do not “need” to “do” anything to get “God” to do something. The cross shows us that God’s purposes work other way around.

    There is only one kind of prayer that “works,” and that is the prayer which speaks from simple faith in the risen Son of God. It “works” because we know that God hears it, because God hears Jesus. No matter what perceived response creation gives us to what we ask for, we can always rest assured that his ears to us are open and his great Answer is already given in the resurrection of his Son, to whom we are forever united.=

    “The prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Indeed, Jesus’ prayers are the answers to all the ills of the world, and we, united with him by grace given in promises to which faith alone may cling, are heard every time we lift our eyes to the Father in heaven – even be it with imprecatory intent!

    Thanks be to God for this marvelous Truth that no one may take away, for it is founded in his Word. God has mercy even on our filthy prayers!


    As an aside, I’ve been following the TV show “Kings” to see what modern pop-writers do with a classic story of betrayal and faith. Not surprisingly, they are *royally* making a mockery of it. Even so, this issue of charismatic prayer undergirds and serves as the primary theology for who God is to both King Silas (Saul) and Rev. Samuels (Samuel.) Interestingly, David is more of an Atheist who is a really nice guy. The reason I bring it up is that the most recent episode does a wonderful job illustrating this charismatic view of prayer and the “wordless” relationship with God, both in the confused searching that it forces upon the “believers” and in the faithless ending to which they ultimately come.

  14. Remember when they used to pray the Lord’s Prayer in our grandfather’s church.

  15. In addition to praying for the church (and the synod which is not ‘church’)regularly and twice on Sunday in our congregation, Texas Confessional Lutherans will be hosting a “Free Conference” that weekend. No doubt the program organizers will pray for the (synod…not church), the organizers of this expensive exercise in grasping for publicity, and the church. [I note that the St Louis affair is scheduled for Thurs & Fri and no doubt the Post-Dispatch religion writer for Saturday is invited.]

  16. I wonder if the referenced prayers are in a “prayer language” or just plain English. As a means of grace, and prayed in the right language, and by the right people, intercessory prayer can be some kind of powerful stuff. You didn’t know prayer is a means of grace? Well, if you receive an answer….in English….

    Perhaps I’m being a bit irreverent, but this is what you get with the kind of stuff that Rev’s Sonntag (#12) and Wollenburg (#13) are referring to. I’m not making it up–that’s the kind of baloney you really hear. (It’s also part and parcel of Transforming Congregations.) I find it extremely difficult not to get emotional when I read about this bogosity, well-intentioned as it may be, especially at the synodical level. It’s still a bogosity.

    Now I feel better….

  17. For those people saying it’s hard to believe that Missouri-Synod people would allow this to happen, I’ve seen a LOT of this charismatic-type stuff creep up in Bible study materials, etc. A lot of the people in some of my local congregations will just kind of gloss over evagelical “training” manuals that have instructions on things like “being a prayer warrior”, “receiving the Holy Spirit”, “having the gift of tongues”, and I guess I kinda wanna bat them over the head and just yell “Do you know what you’re reading and why it’s wrong?!”
    I guess the more I’m aware of how both my local and synodical church is going astray the unhappier I get…it’s really not a good situation at all.

  18. Since this intercession convention appears to have the synodical leadership imprimatur and be tied to the 9/11 commemoration (at least on the date it is held) I have to wander if it will be open to any and all world religions, a’ la Yankee Stadium.

    I think I’ll pass on this latest Ablaze! fad and gimmickry and stay at home to pray with my fellow Lutherans.

  19. We have been adopting the terminology of the sectarians for some time. Someone I knew called themself a “Prayer warrior.” I asked the pastors of our circuit what a prayer warrior was and they didn’t know, but that it soundedd pentecostal. I’m afraid to delve into that. In the period of pietism in Scandinavia, attendance at messe began to fall off, but in every parish was built a Bedehus (prayer house), which became a focal point, and which finally led to the great falling away from the faith. These prayer groups which take credit for results sound like nothing less than God-manipulation, and not in the true spirit of Christian prayer, and definitely undermine the prayers of God’s assembled people in the Divine Service as well as personal and family prayers.

  20. #12, Holger, is there anyplace Pr. Dodge’s presentation is provided online? And if not, is there a synopsis of it anywhere?

  21. It always amuses me that the biggest advocates of emphasis on spiritual gifts appear to be strict cessasionists with regard to Discerning of Spirits.

  22. > He spoke at length about the charismatic movement that began in 1901 and considered it — along with the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli political control in 1967 — as one of the signs that God is doing amazing things that indicate the closeness of the end of the age. <

    I agree. It is a sign the Latter Days are upon us. And God is indeed doing amazing things.

    However, the amazing things God is doing are a separate matter from the work of these enthusiasts who are indeed an abomination.

  23. Yes, Scott (#27)–there’s a goodly amount of sarcasm or satire in these postings, so please read with discernment. You might want to read as follows: “What is this posting (or blogger) saying to me?”, just like you’re supposed to read the Bible. Then simply wait for the answer, and wallah (that’s French), you’ve got it! Get it? Good!

  24. Wallah? French? I thought it was a kind of fish you catch in Minnesota. Voila!! very French, but not good for eating

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